Oregon Gubernatorial Race Takes Shape

This article provides a pretty good summary of the exciting six-person guberatorial contest going on in Oregon this year, though it’s main focus seems to be the impact of Constitution Party candidate Mary Starrett. However, it seems likely that independent State Senator Ben Westlund will be the candidate to watch in this race.

From KATU...

Oregon’s fall gubernatorial race is shaping up to be one of the most crowded in years with the addition of several minor party candidates, including a veteran broadcaster and strident abortion foe who could spell trouble for Republican Ron Saxton.

Mary Starrett, the Constitution Party’s nominee, says she’s running as the only “true pro-life candidate,” a claim that dismays other abortion opponents who are backing Saxton in hopes of putting a Republican in the Oregon governor’s office for the first time in 20 years.

Two other minor party candidates are running - the Libertarian Party’s Richard Morley and Pacific Green Party candidate Joe Keating - and they could peel away votes as well from either Saxton or Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Another wild card in the race is state Sen. Ben Westlund, an independent from Bend who is gathering petition signatures to put his name on the fall ballot.

Starrett’s nomination last weekend as the Constitution Party’s gubernatorial candidate is the latest wrinkle in a six-way race that could be one of the most complex political contests in recent Oregon history.

There also were six candidates in the 1998 governor’s race, but then-Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber coasted to victory over a field of largely unknown challengers.

The staunchly conservative Starrett makes no bones about the fact she’s seeking support from anti-abortion social conservatives - people who usually vote Republican - and that in doing so she could take votes away from Saxton.

The former TV personality and radio talk show host contends Saxton is a “pro-abortion” candidate - even though Saxton has said he favors a ban on so-called partial birth abortions and supports a law requiring parents to be notified before a teen can have an abortion.

Saxton won’t support an outright ban on abortion, Starrett said, “so why should pro-life voters be forced to vote for someone who supports something they find abhorrent?”

But Tim Nashif, who publishes a Christian voting guide and led the successful 2004 initiative campaign to ban gay marriage in Oregon, said mainstream anti-abortion groups such as Oregon Right to Life are comfortable backing Saxton. Starrett is only seeking to derail Saxton’s bid for the governor’s office, Nashif said.

“She is looking around for disgruntled people and trying to convince them that she can actually win, when she knows she can’t,” said Nashif, who is supporting Saxton’s candidacy. “She is just trying to be a spoiler.”

Political analyst Jim Moore said he thinks Starrett will draw votes from ardent abortion opponents but that most social conservatives likely will back Saxton.

“The main anti-abortion groups have come out in favor of Ron Saxton, because even though he is not 100 percent in line with their views, they strongly want a Republican governor,” said Moore, who teaches political science at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

The other minor contenders - the Libertarians’ Morley and the Pacific Green’s Keating - could also siphon votes from the major-party contenders. But they say they are not trying to deep-six one particular election opponent or the other.

Morley, who ran for secretary of state in 2004, said the governor’s race will help move a policy message and highlight the party’s stands.

He said Libertarians want to protect people from unwarranted searches and eavesdropping, reduce the size of government and keep it out of people’s personal lives. As an example, he said, government shouldn’t stand in the way if a same-sex couple wants civil union status.

“Our campaign is going to be based on those concepts,” Morley said.

Keating, a longtime environmental activist, said he’s running against “all the candidates,” because they aren’t really addressing the issues facing Oregon and the nation.

“In this race, I’m the only peace candidate, I’m the only environmental candidate, and I’m the only social justice candidate,” said Keating, who ran against Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer in 1996 on the Pacific Party ticket.

Portland pollster Adam Davis gives a slight edge to Kulongoski at this point, but says that with such a large field of candidates, and months to go before the election, it remains one of the most volatile and unpredictable races he’s seen.

Davis is willing to make one prediction, though - that the ultimate winner will do so with less than a majority of the votes cast, probably 40 percent or less.

“It’s going to be a fascinating, hard-fought campaign,” he said.

4 Responses to “Oregon Gubernatorial Race Takes Shape”

  1. Jason Says:

    I’m interested to see how Starrett does in the race. If she can ever get out of the gate—I mean with substantial momentum from more than just ardent pro-lifers, and establish herself within the conservative community, she could be fun to watch. There is a chance she could take a lot of the state.

    The lady has class, charisma, and “that presence” to be an effective speaker and candidate along with the fact that she is already known through out the state; makes her an interesting candidate. I hope that her resources and funding are there and in place because she is going to need every bit and probably more.

  2. Freelancer Says:

    Yeah. She doesn’t present herself as some sort of nut. She actually looks gubenatorial. :) I’m actually excited about tracking her candidacy.

  3. Chris Campbell Says:

    Go Mary

  4. Centrist Dem Chris Says:

    Go Ben!

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